Study: Overseas ATM withdrawals costly

By UK CreditCards.com

Britons are wasting millions of pounds every year by failing to take the most appropriate form of plastic card on holiday, new research suggests. According to a study from Sainsbury's Travel Money, British holidaymakers withdrew around £14.2bn on debit and credit cards from foreign ATMs in the past year. This means that hundreds of millions of pounds were spent on overseas ATM transactions, which some experts say could have been avoided by using a lower fee prepaid travel card.

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Up to £391m spent on overseas ATM withdrawals
The latest research from Sainsbury's Travel Money, conducted among 2,005 adults in March 2011 by ICM, suggests that cash machine withdrawals cost holidaymakers £391m in fees over the previous 12 months. Many people rely on ATMs to provide their holiday cash, rather than converting all of their spending money into foreign currency before leaving the UK. However, the practice can prove costly if tourists use their standard debit or credit cards.

Even some prepaid cards charge ATM fees
A significant number of people now use a prepaid card when travelling overseas, but Sainsbury's found that the fees associated with this method of payment vary from card to card. According to its research, 65.3% of prepaid cards charge users for overseas ATM withdrawals, and these fees can be as high as €3 (£2.65) per transaction. This means it is vital for holidaymakers to compare prepaid cards carefully and ensure they take one with low ATM fees.

'Choose carefully' to avoid charges
David Barrett, head of Sainsbury's Travel Money, revealed that the average holidaymaker who withdraws money on both their debit and credit card while overseas spends £41 per year on ATM fees. "Those who withdraw smaller sums from ATMs on a frequent basis could be paying well over the odds for their holiday cash," warned Mr Barrett in a press release.

However, lower fee prepaid cards can provide some relief, he said. "Prepaid cards can be an excellent way to make your money go that little bit further, providing you choose carefully. It's important to shop around and know what you're getting, as many people get stung by charges they weren't anticipating," noted Mr Barrett. 

See related: Travellers to US may be unable to use credit cards; The right credit card may cut overall holiday costs

Published: 13 July 2011